I bruised my chest recently by taking an accidental elbow during a basketball game. I had the same type of injury once, and it took about a month or a month and a half to heal fully. I cannot perform any chest exercises while lifting weights right now because that motion causes too much discomfort. However, I can do back, shoulder and arm weight exercises with no discomfort. My question is, should I keep doing these other exercises, even though I cannot do chest exercises now? Or should I not do anything until my chest is healed? I lift weights regularly and do not want to lose too much strength. Thank you.
Since I’m not a medical professional, I referenced www.webmd.com to determine the exact nature of a bruise: “A bruise is a common skin injury that results in a discoloration of the skin. Blood from damaged blood vessels deep beneath the skin collects near the surface of the skin resulting in what we think of as a black and blue mark.”
Think of a bruise as a location of severe physical stress to the fascial structures of the muscular system. Davis’ Law states that soft tissue models along the lines of stress. This could create a matrix of collagen cells binding perpendicular to the muscle fibers, restricting the normal elasticity of the tissue, so it is important to keep the joint and tissue mobile to maintain the normal ROM, but avoid doing resistance exercises in order to give the area the best chance to heal.
Since the pectoralis major is damaged, it is not a good idea to load extra physical stress with the mechanical loading of weight lifting, so stay away from the bench press for at least two to four weeks. Rather than think about what you’ll be missing, take the opportunity to focus on other areas that are involved in basketball while lightly stretching the chest muscles to maintain the normal soft-tissue extensibility and joint range-of-motion.
Use the time off to re-evaluate your program to see if there are other lifting techniques or exercises you should include in your program. Keep in mind that muscles grow and get stronger during rest, so taking some time off could actually help increase your strength in chest-specific exercises over the long run.
While the chest is still sore and tender, avoid doing horizontal adduction movements with the shoulder (gleno-humeral) joints. Instead think of doing abduction-type movements such as a dumbbell PNF or other movements to strengthen the muscles that mobilize and stabilize the scapulae such as dumbbell scaption or a prone-cobra (see PTN Exercise Library for specific instruction). Another option would be to do pulling-based movements such as rows (whether cable or barbell is your choice) to strengthen the back or rotational movements to strengthen the muscles of the core in the transverse plane (do a search for core exercises on cables/bands in the PTN Exercise Library for options).
To help promote healing while strengthening the surrounding muscles, webmd.com recommends: “A cold compress such as an icepack or a bag of frozen peas should be applied to the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes in order to speed healing and reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the icepack in a towel.”
Think of it this way: our bodies have to last us 90+ years (keeping the fingers crossed), so taking a couple of weeks off of weight training in order to allow proper healing is the smartest strategy for long term health and fitness.